A major snowstorm pummelling southern Ontario and parts of the U.S. is forcing school and other closures as well as flight delays and cancellations, and has caused traffic woes that include at least 200 traffic accidents in the province alone.
Between 15 and 25 centimetres of snow are expected to fall across southern Ontario, with the possibility of winds of up to 60 km/h.
More than 15 centimetres had already fallen on Toronto by noon with more on the way, making this the biggest storm the city has seen since 2008.
The same weather system is also poised to dump up to 90 centimetres of snow across the northeastern United States.
Environment Canada is warning commuters of hazardous travelling conditions due to near-zero visibility, and heavy and blowing snow.
The snow in Ontario will end in areas west of the Greater Toronto Area late in the afternoon, in the Toronto area in the evening, and overnight in easternmost sections of the province, the weather agency said.
In Toronto, city crews have dispatched about 600 plows.
Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Dave Woodford said that by 8:30 a.m. ET, there had been more than 200 accidents in southern Ontario, including the GTA, by late morning.
Traffic was light on the region's highways and only moving at about 20 km/h, Woodford said early Friday.
“Conditions are treacherous right now," Woodford said. “People think because they have snow tires or four-wheel drive, nothing can happen to them. If you have to be out, slow down. If you don’t have to be out anywhere, don’t go on the roads.”
The Canadian Automobile Association said it had received about 1500 calls for service by early Friday morning.
Parts of southern Quebec can also expect to see snow as the system moves east toward the Maritimes. Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and southern New Brunswick are all under blizzard or blowing snow warnings. The worst weather is expected to hit the region overnight and into Saturday.
CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland said as much as 40 centimetres of snow is possible in Nova Scotia, and wind gusts could reach a maximum of 100 km/h.
Newfoundland is under a winter storm watch for Saturday afternoon.
How the weather is affecting you locally:
- Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick are under blizzard or blowing snow warnings.
- The GTA and parts of southern Ontario, hit by 12 centimetres already, are expecting another 15 to 25.
- The snow has caused hundreds of flight delays at Pearson International Airport and many school closures in southern Ontario.
- Fifteen centimetres of snow is expected in Ottawa, where school buses have been cancelled.
Thousands of flights cancelled
Thousands of flights have been cancelled not only due to the storm hitting Ontario, but because of poor weather conditions from Chicago to Quebec City.
About 700 flights, or nearly half, have been cancelled at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.
Travellers at airports across Canada are being advised to call airlines ahead of time to check if flights have been cancelled or delayed.
In the U.S., New York's LaGuardia, Newark's Liberty, Boston's Logan and Chicago's O’Hare are among the most affected airports, with more than 3,700 flights cancelled in the U.S.
Ontario commuters face delays
Ontario's GO Transit is advising its customers to leave extra time for travelling and to check its website for service updates. It is warning that customers may experience delays on its bus and train systems.
Several school boards across southern Ontario are closed today, including the Waterloo Catholic School Board, the Waterloo Public School Board and the Peel District School Board.
York University in Toronto and McMaster University in Hamilton are also among the schools closed today. The University of Toronto said its Mississauga and Scarborough campuses would be closed but its main downtown campus would be open.
Buses were also cancelled for the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto District Catholic School Board, as well as the York Region and York Catholic boards.
Dangerous driving conditions
In Ottawa and eastern Ontario, where about 15 centimetres of snow was expected, school buses were cancelled.
The reduced visibility has made for dangerous driving conditions. Police have closed the eastbound lanes of an 88-kilometre stretch of Highway 401 near Ottawa because of a fatal collision.
The crash happened just before 10 a.m. ET near Prescott, Ont., according to Grenville Country OPP.
Police are advising people not to drive if possible.
On the streets of Toronto, many people were trudging along sidewalks covered in snow.
"It's not easy going but we have an office we have to keep salted up," said Eddie Sobo, a construction worker who was struggling to push a wheelbarrow full of road salt through the snow.
Sobo said he's not averse to dealing with snow on the job and he needs to keep surfaces salted for office staff who "need to get out."
With files from The Canadian Press